Gorakhpur tragedy: pressure mounts on Yogi, medical officer's report exposes govt lie
What happened at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur is appalling enough – about 60 patients, most of them children, dying due to an alleged lack of oxygen supply.
But the Uttar Pradesh government's callousness in handling the deaths has exposed its utter inefficiency.
The fact is that the tragedy occurred barely two days after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had carried out an inspection at the hospital. He is the Lok Sabha MP for Gorakhpur. The CM had inspected the encephalitis ward of the medical college on 10 July too, and had warned that all health officials would be held accountable for any death due to carelessness. Did the hospital authorities not take his visit or his words seriously?
This has only added to the prevailing doubts over the monk's ability to govern a large state like UP, and has perhaps re-ignited Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's ambitions of becoming CM. A change isn't expected immediately, but the overall situation in the state has weakened Adityanath's standing.
What's worse, Adityanath showed an utter lack of sensitivity by not uttering a word for an entire day, despite the magnitude of the tragedy. He finally broke his silence with a press conference on Saturday evening, confirming 60 deaths since 7 August, but asking for facts to be 'verified' before allegations were made.
He also announced an inquiry under the chief secretary into the role of the oxygen supplier, and said the guilty will not be spared.
Deflecting the blame onto previous governments, he said healthcare in the region was an emotional issue for him, and that he had been fighting for it since 1998.
मेरे लिए यह भावनात्मक मुद्दा है क्योंकि मैं इसके लिए 1998 से लड़ रहा हूं। किसी को इस मामले में खिलवाड़ करने की इजाजत नहीं है: #UPCM— CM Office, GoUP (@CMOfficeUP) August 12, 2017
Denial mode on
Deputy CM Maurya, minister for medical education Ashutosh Tandon, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi and others from the saffron party denied that the deaths were related to the unavailability of oxygen. Only Lok Sabha MP Sakshi Maharaj said the tragedy was the result of the carelessness of hospital authorities.
Facing intense heat, UP health minister Sidharth Nath Singh called a press conference 24 hours after the tragedy. He admitted there was a shortage of oxygen, but said it needed to be investigated whether that was the cause of the deaths.
Announcing that RK Misra, the principal of BRD Medical College, had been suspended, Singh said there was nothing unusual about the high number of deaths – that they were an annual feature.
He said the government had released the payment to be made to the dealer supplying oxygen, and that the Chief Secretary would further inquire into why the money was not passed on to the supplier.
However, Misra denied his 'suspension', telling a TV channel that he was resigning. “I don't want to continue as principal,” he said. He also rebutted the government's claim that money had reached the medical college on 5 August.
Nodal officer's report exposes govt lie
The government and the Gorakhpur district administration may describe the high number of mortalities as 'routine' and 'unrelated' to disruption in oxygen supply, but facts raise doubts over the official claims.
While 30 patients, mostly infants, died between 10 and 11 August due to alleged lack of oxygen, another 30 had died in the preceding three days, beginning 7 August.
A report filed by the National Health Mission's nodal officer at ward 100 of the medical college explained how the oxygen supply went haywire in the paediatric department, and suggested complete lack of the life-saving gas on 10 and 11 August.
The report stated that at “7.30 pm on 10.08.17 when the liquid oxygen pressure began to fall, 52 oxygen cylinders lying in reserve were used”.
Subsequently, as per the nodal officer's report, the situation developed in the following manner:
- Fifty cylinders were ordered from M/s IGL, Faizabad, which reached ward 100 at 1.30 am on 11.08.17.
- At 8.30 am on 11.08.17, more cylinders arrived from IGL, Faizabad, and were used.
- Again on 11.08.17 at 1.30 pm, 22 cylinders were brought from Messrs Modi Pharma, Gorakhpur, and used.
- At 4.30 pm on 11.08.17, another lot of 36 cylinders were brought from Messrs Modi Pharma, Gorakhpur, and used.
It is abundantly clear from the report that the situation was gradually getting out of control of the hospital management.
That the crisis spiralled completely out of control, leaving patients gasping for breath and die, was indicated in the following two points of the nodal officer's report:
- Again on 11.08.17, 100 cylinders have been sent to Messrs Modi Pharma, Gorakhpur, for refilling.
(This part of the report does not mention that the cylinders were received back even, as it desperately awaited another supply from IGL, Faizabad.)
- 100 cylinders from Messrs IGL, Faizabad, were expected to arrive by 11 pm on 11.08.17.
Pravin Modi of Modi Pharma told a TV channel that the hospital authorities cancelled his contract in March and gave it to an Allahabad-based firm. No reason was assigned for the cancellation of Modi's contract, yet he claims he was the one who pulled hospital officials out of dire straits.
“Although I no longer have contract for oxygen supply to the hospital, I provided them with around 200-300 cylinders on humanitarian grounds,” Modi told the TV channel.
Deepankar Sharma of Pushpa Sales, the original oxygen supplier, had warned the hospital authorities of the oncoming disaster due to non-payment of dues. In a letter dated 1 August 2017, the company had stated that dues amounting to Rs 63,65,702.00 were pending, despite “our repeated reminders through letters, telephonic conversation and personal meetings”.
“Despite this, we have ensured oxygen supply for another 4-5 days in the interest of patients,” Sharma said.
Explaining the firm's constraints in maintaining the supply, the letter said that because of non-payment of dues, it was unable to clear its own dues to INOX, the company from which it got its own supplies. “We have informed you on earlier occasions too that INOX company which sells oxygen to us has expressed its inability to provide oxygen if the dues are not cleared,” the letter stated.
Sharma had warned that in the event of non-payment, “our firm shall not be responsible for the consequences”.
Copies of the letter were marked to the director-general of medical and health, Uttar Pradesh.
But instead of hauling up the medical college principal and other authorities, the government reportedly raided the residence of Pushpa Sales' owner Manish Bhandari.
Opposition asks questions of Yogi
The Opposition Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have taken the opportunity to launch an all-out attack against the state government, not just on the deaths at the hospital, but also on crimes against women, which are going on unabated.
Former CM Akhilesh Yadav said that the magisterial inquiry ordered by the district administration was a farce. “He's only a magistrate and you know what to expect in his report. He will be later rewarded with a good posting,” Akhilesh said.
He asked CM Adityanath to explain what kind of inspection he carried out at the BRD Medical College on 9 August.
A Congress delegation led by Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded the resignation of health minister Sidharth Nath Singh.